Rangers take lesson from loss to Caps

Difference between winning and losing can be slim, but all too measurable

Tuesday, 11.09.2010 / 11:50 PM / News
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Rangers take lesson from loss to Caps

Brian Boyle
Rangers forward Brian Boyle slams into Washington defenseman John Erskine during the second period on Tuesday night at MSG. Boyle scored twice in the game's opening 20 minutes and stretched his career-high total to seven goals in only 15 games.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com

On Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, facing one of the league’s elite teams in the Washington Capitals, the Rangers played with an intensity and passion that is more often associated with a playoff game than an early-season contest.

The Rangers found a way to contain Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin and his high-scoring linemates Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom. And the Blueshirts grabbed three separate one-goal leads as Brian Boyle scored a pair, and Derek Boogaard netted his first goal in 235 games.

That they still dropped a 5-3 home-ice decision to the Capitals explains why this was, perhaps, the Rangers’ most frustrating defeat of the young season.

“It’s a really disappointing one for us (Tuesday) night because I thought we did play pretty well,” said defenseman Dan Girardi, who teamed with partner Marc Staal to keep Ovechkin’s line in check throughout. “We gave ourselves the chance to win. We had a couple of leads there, but they got a couple of breaks, and at the same time we had a couple of breakdowns. It’s a tough one for the guys.”

Battling for every inch of ice on Tuesday, the Rangers played with collective grit and fortitude. That helped them forge leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the opening period, and 3-2 early in the second period. And it helped them limit the Caps to only nine shots on goal over the game’s final 40 minutes.

Unfortunately for the home team, an opportunistic Capitals squad scored on four of those nine shots -- including an empty-net goal -- to steal this one away from the Blueshirts, who have now dropped the first two games of the current four-game homestand.

“We come up short here again at home and it’s not fun,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who finished with 18 saves. “We were right there and did a lot of good things, but we have to find a way to win. It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect, it just needs to be a win.”

Coming off a 2-0 shutout defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, the Rangers raced to a 1-0 lead just 4:02 into the game when Boyle collected a pass from Girardi in front and roofed a backhand shot over Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth.

After the Caps answered back with a Brooks Laich goal at 8:52, Boyle restored the Rangers’ one-goal advantage with his second tally of the night -- and career-high seventh already this season -- at 12:56. On the play, Boyle intercepted a flubbed pass by defenseman Karl Alzner during a Rangers power play in front of the Caps net. He then beat Neuvirth top shelf, and the Blueshirts owned a 2-1 lead.

“We wanted to win, and it would’ve been a great win at home. We had them,” said Boyle. “We can’t fault the effort, but we have to find a way to win these games. It’s a bitter feeling.”

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped the Caps' Mike Knuble on this first-period shot, said the Blueshirts are doing " a lot of good things" but need to find a way to win tight games in the late stages.
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John Erskine powered a slap shot past Lundqvist 2:34 into the second period after Washington cleanly won an offensive-zone faceoff to pull even 2-2. But less than a minute later, Boogaard scored for the first time since Jan. 7, 2006, electrifying the home crowd at MSG.

Boogaard picked up a turnover by defenseman Tyler Sloan and skated up left wing on a breakaway. When he reached the top of the left circle, he unloaded a heavy slap shot which beat Neuvirth to the stick side, and the Rangers had what turned out to be their final lead of the night.

“Nowadays any time a guy goes to take a slap shot the goalies all go down in that butterfly, so that’s why I shot high,” said Boogaard, who is still suffering the effects of a bug that caused  him to miss practice on Monday. “Boyler was screaming at me from the bench to shoot so I shot and it worked out good.”

Mike Knuble tied the game at 9:18 for Washington, and then a bit more than a minute later -- for the second time in as many games -- the Rangers had an apparent goal waved off by the officials.

On Sunday it was Alex Frolov who had a first-period score taken away on a controversial high-sticking call. On Tuesday it was Ruslan Fedotenko whose goal was disallowed when the referee ruled he had bumped into the goalie on the scoring play in which Fedotenko burst around a defenseman and drove hard to the net.

“The referee said I made a collision with the goalie, and it happened so fast, but I didn’t think so,” said Fedotenko. “They made it no-goal, so it’s no-goal.”

Despite great scoring chances in the third period -- including a 2-on-1 break in which Fedotenko hammered his shot too high and off the glass from right wing -- the Rangers surrendered the eventual game-winning goal to Matt Hendricks with 12:07 left to play.

“We had a turnover at the blueline, and then we turn it over in behind the net and the forwards don’t come down to support the breakdown and it’s in the net,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of Hendricks’ goal. “I thought we were controlling the period up until then. Disappointing.”

As a result, the Rangers now stand at 2-5-1 on home ice this season, with a tough contest against the Buffalo Sabres awaiting on Thursday.

Clearly the Rangers will be a desperate team seeking an important victory when they next take to the ice.

“The way we have to play at home is with a lot of passion, and working hard which I think we did (Tuesday) night,” said Girardi. “But unfortunately it’s just another tough one at home here.”